Where to eat and what to order in Providence
Dine (and sip) like a champ in Rhode Island’s capital, where the culinary talent and fresh ingredients are locally grown.
> birch, 200 Washington Street, 401-272-3105, birchrestaurant.com
> Oberlin, 186 Union Street, 401-588-8755, oberlinrestaurant.com
For a one-of-a-kind dining experience, reserve a seat at the horseshoe-shaped counter of chef Benjamin Sukle’s intimate restaurant, birch, just across the street from Trinity Repertory Company. Indulge in the $49 four-course dinner with highlights that might include kingfish accented by daikon, shiso, and fennel. Sukle’s sourcing of herbs, flowers, meat, seafood, and produce sticks to New England’s four seasons. If a last-minute food adventure is your thing, drop in down the street at sister restaurant Oberlin, a no-reservations spot where house-made pastas share a menu with raw fish platings featuring species that arrived at Rhode Island docks that morning.
Make sure to try: The four-course dinner at birch; at Oberlin, the raw fish combo platter and house-made pastas.
CHEZ PASCAL & THE WURST KITCHEN
960 Hope Street, 401-421-4422, chez-pascal.com
On the East Side of Providence, local and seasonal ingredients are emphasized, whether at the high end like crispy duck leg confit in Chez Pascal’s art gallery-like dining room, or at lower price points for house-made knackwursts and weisswursts at The Wurst Kitchen. The latter are plated outside the bun and blanketed in the chef’s own condiments, including sauerkrauts, grainy Dijon mustards, and hand-chopped relishes. For lunch, you can stop by The Wurst Kitchen window and, when the weather’s pleasant, enjoy a sausage sandwich on the patio.
Make sure to try: The house-made hot dog with kraut, which famed food writer and editor Ruth Reichl wrote may be the best one she’s ever eaten.
THE DUCK AND BUNNY
312 Wickenden Street, 401-270-3300, theduckandbunny.com
This darling spot, a cotton-candy pink Colonial with a tree-covered courtyard, is like Alice’s Mad Tea-Party come to life with sweet and savory crepes of all types and afternoon tea service with sandwiches, scones, and treats. Inside, you’ll find chic white and gray design and tufted banquettes by the front coffee bar. Go for the Chubby Ella — Nutella and banana — or the savory Rachel and Monica (named for sisters the owners know). Dessert crepes and cupcakes pair well with various fruit and herb Champagne cocktails.
Make sure to try: Crepiccini (crepes cut into strips of pasta) or a creperito (a crepe burrito stuffed with black beans, brown rice, cheese, salsa and guacamole).
275 Thayer Street, 401-351-2807, durksbbq.com
Durk’s is a brand-spanking-new joint that’s brought Texas-style barbecue to student-centered Thayer Street near Brown University. Students, families, and professionals fill trays with tender ribs, savory pork belly, and traditional sides at the cafeteria-style service counter, where the enormous indoor smoker is on full display. Feast your eyes on the impressive wall of whiskey at the U-shaped bar, then sample the riches straight up or in a cocktail.
Make sure to try: Brisket, ribs, or pork belly (go early, before they sell out), always with a side of corn bread and Brussels sprouts.
471 West Fountain Street, 401-343-0441, bucktownpvd.com
This hot spot satisfies the West Side of Providence with fried chicken and shrimp po’ boys (dine in or take out), cucumber salad, waffle fries, and creamy potato salad, plus locally farmed $1 oysters on Mondays. It’s simple food done right, in a no-frills, industrial-chic atmosphere of high-top tables and stools. A ’Gansett tall boy is always acceptable.
Make sure to try: Scratch-made biscuits, the fried chicken plate with two sides, and banana pudding for dessert.
61 Washington Street, 401-228-8118, elliesbakery.com
It feels like France inside this Parisian-inspired downtown cafe, where you can follow your nose to fresh-baked breads, beautiful desserts, delicate pastel macarons, and locally roasted coffee. Sample the lovely lavender latte, if it’s available, made using lavender grown on the rooftop garden. Stop by for a breakfast egg sammie or baguette-style sandwich for lunch, and bring home a box full of treats for later.
Make sure to try: Seasonal French macaron flavors or mainstays like pistachio and chocolate peanut butter.
256 Atwells Avenue, 401-272-8466, facebook.com/enotecaumberto
This tiny 18-seat wine bar is the most authentic Italian spot on Federal Hill, Providence’s Little Italy, which has become a parade of Americanized red-sauce joints. The Southern Italian dishes from the husband-and-wife owners’ homeland feature hand-rolled pastas and fresh bufala mozzarella — shipped in twice a week from a cousin’s farm in Italy — paired with wines from the same region. Reservations are tough to come by because of the place’s size, so plan far in advance to nab a table.
Make sure to try: Fresh pastas finished with simple ingredients like tomato and mascarpone or smoked prosciutto and cream.
FEDERAL HILL PIZZA
1039 Chalkstone Avenue, 401-331-3310, federalhillpizza.com
This is the new second location of one of Rhode Island’s best Neapolitan brick oven pizza spots. Owner William Manzo Jr., a certified master pizzaiolo who competes in international pizza-making competitions, restored the vast, historic Castle Cinema and plans to show sports and movies on the big screen and turn the place into an international pizza school. Rectangular pies feature buttery crusts and generous toppings like homemade meatballs, barbecue chicken, and clams with basil and olive oil.
Make sure to try: The thick, soft, and crusty Owner’s Favorite al taglio pizza, with prosciutto, goat cheese, mushrooms, basil, and fresh mozzarella.
903 Chalkstone Avenue, 401-649-4911, losandesri.com
This South American restaurant is run by the Curi family, a team of two brothers and their sister, with manager Omar Curi often circulating through the dining room to greet guests and offer menu suggestions. High on his list of must-trys is the ceviche: shrimp, squid, tilapia, and mussels in a citrus marinade, served in a martini glass with crunchy corn cancha. The specials menu offers innovative takes on Peruvian cuisine, but you can always choose traditional classics like steak topped with gooey fried eggs and a side of yuca.
Make sure to try: Jalea, a Peruvian fisherman’s platter piled high with lightly fried mussels, clams, shrimp, squid, and fish, topped with salsa.
NICKS ON BROADWAY
500 Broadway, 401-421-0286, nicksonbroadway.com
Known for his dedication to sustainable seafood species, local meat and produce, and pristine presentation, chef Derek Wagner is celebrating 15 years in the kitchen at his modern tribute to the American diner. An upbeat brunch menu presents eggs Benedict in unusual ways — with a fillet of scup, for example, or accompanied by fresh-picked fiddleheads. Among other hearty choices is white bean cassoulet. Wagner also serves up incredible four- or seven-course chef’s tastings for dinner. Sit at the counter and watch him work magic.
Make sure to try: Beef and pork from Rhode Island’s Blackbird Farm or one of the takes on black bass, flounder, or scup landed off Point Judith.
3 Luongo Memorial Square, foodbynorth.com
North is known for spanning cultures in a single meal. You might start off down South with tiny ham biscuits, head to Spain for some crispy potato bravas, and finish with Chinese dan dan noodles with local mutton, Point Judith squid, and fermented chilies. Some dishes are plated like art atop handmade ceramics thrown by the chef, James Mark, himself, and other artisans. Vegan and vegetarian selections often upstage proteins, including charred carrots and fennel, flavored with a green garlic sauce and complemented by sunflower and flax, a good source of fiber.
Make sure to try: The ham biscuits and dan dan noodles, usually on the menu, and the almost boneless fried chicken (feet-on for shock effect), a colossal portion best shared.
99 Hope Street, 401-432-7422, persimmonri.com
After 10 years in coastal Bristol, Rhode Island, Champe and Lisa Speidel packed up their cookware and opened a new iteration of Persimmon in the neighborhoody East Side of Providence. Champe’s seasonal menu of technique-driven shared plates
features sustainable seafood and responsibly sourced meats in a casual-friendly atmosphere. Stop in on the bar side for a few apps and drinks, or book a table in the restaurant, where you can watch the team at work in the open kitchen.
Make sure to try: The masterful Bolognese or the venison, a tenderloin accented by ingredients like sweet pear and dates.
79 Ives Street, pvdonuts.com
Providence’s first specialty doughnut shop did its homework before launching a dawn-breaking, pastry-frying operation that often has fans lining up down the block. Owner Lori Kettelle’s brioche-based recipe makes flavorful toppings stand out, though old-fashioned and vegan choices are also available. PVDonuts releases a new menu monthly, so varieties like churro Nutella, rosewater pistachio, and a ’90s throwback, Dunkaroos, can make it into rotation.
Make sure to try: The Cereal Milk, topped with rainbow-hued fruit-flavored cereal and, yes, a cereal milk glaze, if it’s on the menu.
THE SLOW RHODE
425 Fountain Street, facebook.com/theslowrhode
The Slow Rhode is a Southern-inspired small-plates spot, where a menu of bar-friendly foods like pimento toast, manchego fritters, hot (really hot!) fried chicken with pickles on white bread, and curried cauliflower pair well with craft brews and classic cocktails with a twist. If beer’s truly your jam, stay for dinner, then head next door to Long Live Beer Works brewery, where citrusy IPAs and coffee-infused stouts and porters are on pour.
Make sure to try: Crispy fries with duck confit gravy or gumbo — served with crawfish and andouille sausage — in sizable, shareable portions.
146 Ives Street, 401-272-8226, tallulahstaqueria.com
Texas native Jake Rojas, a classically trained chef, taps into his Mexican roots to create upscale versions of street tacos that include slow-roasted and braised meats like barbacoa and carnitas accented by colorful radishes, fragrant cilantro, pico de gallo, and slices of lime. The takeout-heavy restaurant has a few interior tables and an expansive outdoor dining area where passionate fans fuel up on tacos, burritos, quesadillas, tortas, and more before roaming charming Fox Point for antiques and blown-glass art.
Make sure to try: Carnitas — braised pork belly and shoulder — the perfect filling for fresh corn tortillas.